Additional questions about proper disinfection procedures and other potential health problems related to the storm can be directed to the local Board of Health in each city or town. This information is provided by the Community Sanitation Program.
If a person must come into contact with the floodwater they should take the following general precautions:
Flooded buildings should be pumped out and disinfected. After the water is pumped out, solid wastes should be disposed of in a functioning sewage disposal system or sealed in plastic bags for ultimate disposal in an approved landfill.
All flooded floor and wall surfaces should be washed with a solution of 2 capfuls of household bleach for each gallon of water. Any household articles affected by floodwaters should be washed with the same solution. Carpeting, mattresses and upholstered furniture should be disposed of or cleaned and disinfected by a professional cleaner.
Hazards of floods continue to exist after the water recedes as workers, volunteers and homeowners begin to clean up. There are many hazards besides drowning which may cause serious injury. Some basic cautions should be taken as follows.
When entering flooded areas, be aware of electrical hazards. Don't touch any electrical equipment unless you are absolutely sure it is properly grounded or that the power is off. Also, don't operate any electrical equipment that is not specifically designed for use in wet locations. The water in which you are standing will provide a path for the electricity if you touch any equipment that is not properly grounded. That path will go through you too.
Never handle a downed power line. If clearing or other work must be performed near a downed power line, contact the utility company. Extreme caution is necessary when moving ladders and other equipment near overhead power lines to avoid inadvertent contact.
Flood cleanup activities may involve the use of gasoline- or diesel-powered pumps, generators, and pressure washers. Because these devices release carbon monoxide, a deadly, colorless, odorless gas, operate all gasoline-powered devices outdoors and never bring them indoors.
Get help to move heavy objects. Working on slippery surfaces can also cause injuries. Make sure you have a firm footing before lifting. Make sure you have a clear path for carrying heavy objects.
Never operate equipment that you have not been adequately trained to use. When crews are working around heavy equipment, site control is critical. During an emergency, people will not pay attention to back-up alarms. Do not work around heavy equipment unless it is absolutely necessary. Have as few pedestrians in the area as possible.
Never assume that water-damaged structures or ground are stable. Soil is also easily destabilized in wet conditions and may collapse without warning.
Heavy rain can mean a disruption in electrical and gas service and the availability of potable water. When power goes off in the refrigerator, you can normally expect food inside to stay safely cold for 4 to 6 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is. Here are some additional guidelines:
Generally, do not eat any food that has come in contact with floodwater, especially root and garden vegetables. Citrus fruits should be washed well, sanitized in a chlorine solution and peeled before eating. Apples and other fruits should also be cooked before eating. Carefully examine all canned and bottled goods, these are usually not affected but should be washed thoroughly with approved drinking water and a mild disinfecting solution and rinsed prior to opening and use. Canned or powdered milk may be substituted for fresh milk.
If the area over a well is under flood water, the recommended procedure for disinfecting is:
Note: This procedure results in a high level of chorine so the water should not be used for drinking, cooking, or watering livestock until the chlorine odor and taste is no longer apparent. Use of bottled water or boiling water is suggested if citizens are unsure of the purity of their water supply.
Yards that have been contaminated by flooded sewage systems should be disinfected by a liberal application of lime. Children and animals should be kept away from limed areas until the lime is no longer visible.